Athletes deserve proper recognition for achievements

One of the greatest rewards my job offers me is the opportunity to spend countless hours around student-athletes.

For the past four years, I have been blessed to watch some incredible athletes from around the area.

My job never gets old.

I always enjoy communicating with athletes, coaches, officials and spectators, whether the result is good or bad.

I have been able to follow some tremendous teams and cover some extraordinary athletes.

During my four years spending time around area schools, working with teams, athletes, coaches and athletic directors, my experiences have been special.

But over time I have come to realize, especially recently, a friendly reminder needs to be given to provide our hard working athletes the proper recognition they deserve.

A majority of our student-athletes around the area compete in sports to stay active, create lifelong friendships and absorb knowledge, while learning lifelong lessons and being a part of something bigger than themselves.

Almost all of the athletes I have had the pleasure to talk to represent themselves well and are always about the team and community they are representing.

Some athletes put together storied high school careers and the countless hours they’ve dedicated to the sports they play and the school they represent should be recognized. But I’ve realized some athletes are going unnoticed and not being recognized properly for what they are doing in their respective sports.

I was surprised to find out how many schools around the area do not keep track or keep up with team or individual records. Some schools are better than others when it comes to this.

I understand coaches tend to preach the importance of the team rather than the individual, which is completely necessary. But when the time comes where an athlete is on the verge of an impressive individual accomplishment, the school must be prepared to honor an athlete in the proper way.

I have seen several records broken at multiple schools, but what I’ve failed to see is a proper way of coordinating and celebrating these achievements.

There are some schools around the area that have no knowledge of individual records in certain sports and other schools are just starting to keep track of records or don’t keep track at all.

Again, I understand what high school sports is about and how the team is bigger than the individual, but there comes a time where the individual needs to be recognized if he or she is on the verge of a personal milestone.

The duties of a coach and athletic director can be a lot to handle, but it also their responsibility to take care of and reward their athletes when the hard work pays off.

Records need to be kept and updated. After all, they are meant to be broken.

What kind of message is being sent if an athlete believes they are close to a record, but no one takes the time to recognize it?

Athletes are being held accountable by their coaches and school to represent them, and rightfully so.

But it’s a shame when an athlete puts in the time, follows the rules and gets close to a certain milestone and it goes unnoticed.

I’ve witnessed impressive individual achievements nearly go unnoticed and athletes not be honored the way they should be for what they’ve done.

In a recent conversation with area referee Jerry Purgiel about how officials handle records being broken during games he stated, “We are made aware of a possible record or individual accomplishment before the game by a coach. As long as we are made aware, we always honor the athlete,” Purgiel said. “The standard procedure is taking five minutes during the game to allow the athlete to be honored and receive an ovation. It’s special for the athlete and it’s important. It is a big deal when any athlete reaches a certain milestone and it should be treated as such.”

His statement couldn’t be more accurate. A record or any other milestone is a big deal, not just for the athlete, but for the coach, school, parents and community. Not only should an athlete be proud of an achievement, everyone involved should be proud and a record needs to be recognized and celebrated.

Recently I was made aware of a record that was not displayed or ever recognized. The record happened to be longest standing one at the school and had been broken seven years ago.

After going back, researching and calculating, the athlete that brought the record to my attention was correct and indeed had a record that was never recorded or recognized.

Seven years later, 2011 Alpena High School graduate Austin Leeck is recognized as the career points leader for the Wildcat football program with 214 career points, three more than Dave Kaiser’s 211 career points mark set in 1952.

In my opinion, situations like this should never occur at a school. Coaches and members of the athletic department of each school need to stay on top of individual statistics.

With all of the technology that is available, with computers, tablets, smart phones and even the old school way of paper and pen, there is no excuse to not have records of individual statistics.

When an athlete is on the verge of achieving a special milestone, be prepared and have a plan. When it happens, honor the athlete in the proper way, by informing officials and opposing coaches about what is going on. Take five minutes out of a sporting event to stop the action, reward the hard-working athlete in a special way. It’s a memory the athlete will never forget and a special moment for all who are involved.

It is just simply the right thing to do.